Shopping Apps on iOS have been a curious mix of mobile views on vertical stores – such as Amazon – or sometimes over-ambitious attempts at instant price comparisons. Often with some kind of gimmicky input mechanism such as barcode scanning as a hook.
The remainder are glorified data hoovers, trading your vital behavioural information and shopping habits with countless retailers in exchange for some money-off vouchers,
What we haven’t seen, until this week’s launch of Shopomo, is an iOS shopping app in its purest form. An app that just provides you with the latest prices for products that you are interested in, based on how relevant they are to your search criteria. Not on how big the affiliate bung is this particular week.
Shopomo’s interface is the first indication that this shopping app will think a little different. Like Google search at the turn of the century, all you see when you launch the app is a solitary search box at the top of the screen and a text list of 9 departments to browse through.
There are no login or sign up prompts, no special offers, no distracting discount cruft or ‘buy me’ bling of any kind whatsoever. The elegantly understated yellow, grey and blue design notes and buttery smooth interface combine to create the impression that this app intends to get the job done quickly, accurately and with the minimum of fuss.
It’s a promise that the Shopomo app almost delivers on.
On the plus side, Shopomo already has a large number of retailers on board, including big names such as Nike, Disney, Matalan, Boots and Samsung. Online retailers including Amazon and Zavvi are also among the hundreds of product feeds fed into the search algorithm.
The makers claim that over 1,000 retailers are currently selling over 11 million products on Shopomo – which is a huge number for a brand new service. And that’s the main USP the app has over something like Amazon, which only offers its own products. You get a genuine snapshot of a product price from a wide range of resellers, some of which will have their own offers to add value to the sale.
For instance, a search for the latest Sony Bravia KD8305CBU ultra HD TV set found 11 results within a second with prices ranging from £799 to £1299. On Amazon, the same search found a single product with the price of £789 – which is evidence of Amazon’s pricing algorithm automatically polling other online prices and undercutting them automatically.
But what Shopomo reveals that Amazon doesn’t is that other retailers offer free extended warranties or additional hardware like a soundbar and subwoofer combo, which suddenly make the buying decision a more nuanced process than focusing on price alone.
You also have the reassurance that the results listed and ranked are based solely on the relevance to your search term – unlike Google Shopping and other shopping search engines where retailers pay to get products listed and pay again every time a link is clicked.
These are extremely solid foundations on which to build a compelling and trustworthy shopping experience. Then when you layer on top a very polished and intuitive user interface – the frame rate on the animations would have Sir Jonny Ive purring with approval – Shopomo emerges as genuine contender, even in its version 1.0 incarnation.
The but, and there is a small but, lies with the results themselves. Combining thousands of different data feeds, of variable quality, into a single, searchable database with lightning quick response times is an amazing technical achievement.
But merging so many disparate data sets, category trees and naming conventions inevitably means that some searches deliver unexpected and unintended results. There’s a little bit of trial and error with Shopomo searches that you don’t find with the Amazon app, where the retailer owns its own data and has had 20 years to iron out the creases in its product feed and its customers’ search queries.
But refinements to Shopomo’s search algorithm can and will happen over the coming weeks and months. And more retailers will be added to the already impressive ranks on offer.
Both these trends will add momentum to what is a really rather terrific start in the race to deliver a shopping app that can take on the Amazon juggernaut. Watch this space.